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Coming Soon: The Movie You Want To See. But First: 30 Minutes Of Trailers

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Have you ever noticed yourself watching trailers in a theater and thought, “Wait, what movie did I come to see?” After 20-25 minutes of movie trailers, I often forget the feature film. This is especially hard for us RunPee Peeps because we’re often there to watch a movie that we’re not actually excited to see. But we can’t be the only ones, right?

That got me thinking: How do they decide what movie trailers precede each movie? Obviously, there’s a theme. If you’re there to see a horror movie, you’re going to see a lot of trailers for upcoming horror movies, or trailers for action movies if you’re watching a Marvel Movie, etc. But there’s more to it than that—much more.

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Historical Note


Why do we call them movie trailers if they come before the movie? That’s because back in the day, like 1913, they trailers really did come after the feature film ended. The first recorded trailer was when marketer Nils Granlund cut together rehearsal footage of an upcoming Broadway musical and used it to push ticket sales. A year later, Granlund created a trailer promoting an actual movie—starring Charlie Chaplin.

Who Decides What Trailers Preceed A Movie?

This decision has two primary interests, and both are usually in sync with each other. There’s the production studio that is releasing the movie. They want to show trailers for other movies that they are releasing. And of course, there is the movie theater themselves that want to promote movies they plan to show in the future. When there is disagreement, there is compromise, unless Disney is the production company, in which case they get what they want or they won’t let that chain have access to a future release.

Suppose you’re watching a movie produced by Universal; they will stipulate that they want a few trailers of their upcoming movies that are in a similar genre. And those trailers ofter, although not necessarily, come first. Then the theater will have trailers for upcoming movies not affiliated with Universal that they want to show. And of course, sometimes a production company might pay a theater to preview a movie.

The trailers before a movie may change during a movie’s theater run. There may be more trailers shown before a blockbuster movie on opening weekend than there would be on the following weekend. Everyone knows the theater will be close to capacity so there’s a higher value for showing a trailer, especially right before the feature movie begins. Theaters can make some extra cash by selling that trailer spot off. But then, a week or two later, that trailer is removed from the queue.

The Most Common RunPee Feature Request

There is no question, that the most common feature request I have gotten over the years is to let users know how long the previews will be before each movie. Now you know that it’s really impossible to fulfill this request because the number of trailers will be different from one theater to another, and may change even for the same movie of the course of its theatrical release. The last thing I want is to get an email from a RunPee user complaining that they missed the beginning of their movie because our previews length was wrong.

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Brett Robb (Hyperswivel)

January 7, 2024

Couldn’t live without this app anymore. Perfect to time my run for another glass of wine or two. Works great with my smart watch.

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If you really want to optimize your time, the best advice I can give you is:

  • Try to see movies at the same theater so that you have experience with their preview selection. For instance, I know that at AMC, I’m going to get about 2 1/2 minutes of AMC: We Make Movies Better crap before every single film. (Note: thank the stars they finally edited the Nicole Kidman crud down to about 1/3rd its original length.)
  • If you’re seeing a blockbuster movie on opening weekend, you can bet that there will be some extra trailers in the queue.
  • If you’re seeing any movie many weeks or months after its initial release, the number of trailers has probably decreased.
  • If you’re seeing an artsy/independent movie, the number of trailers will probably be fairly short.

Which Trailers Pair To Which Movies?

As I mentioned above, the production company and theater both have a voice in this decision, but how do each decide exactly which trailers to show? People in the advertising world have to make themselves sound smart, so they came up with the quadrant system. The quadrant system divides cinema audiences into four groups: women under 25, men under 25, women over 25 and men over 25. That’s the basic division, but hopefully there is more nuance than that. For instance, if you’re watching a romance movie then it’s probably not a bad idea to throw in a trailer for an action movie with the expectation that a lot of couples are watching the movie together and the guy will be able to say, “Hey, I saw this chick-flick with you. Next time let’s watch Insert Action Title Here.”

The funny thing is that I have access to the Peeple’s Poll data that breaks down how people rate movies by gender and age and I can say definitively that it’s a myth that men like action movies more than women. It may be true that more men go to see action movies, but women consistently rate them higher. Plus, some movies blur the lines between the two genres. Was the first Deadpool movie an action movie with romance, or a romance movie with action?

How Many Trailers Do You Think Is Exceptable?

I think it’s generally accepted that there are too many trailers these days, especially now that we can watch trailers so easily on YouTube when we want to.


There are commercials and trailers before movies in China, but when the movie ticket says a movie starts at 7:00 PM it starts at exactly that time. You have to arrive at the theater early if you want to see the trailers.

I’m curious to know how this works in other countries. If your model differs from the US, please let us know below in the comments.


Don’t miss your favorite movie moments because you have to pee or need a snack. Use the RunPee app (Androidor iPhone) when you go to the movies. We have Peetimes for all wide release films every week, including IF, Fall Guy, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes and coming soon Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga and many others. We have literally thousands of Peetimes—from classic movies through today’s blockbusters. You can also keep up with movie news and reviews on our blog, or by following us on Twitter @RunPee. If there’s a new film out there, we’ve got your bladder covered.

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3 responses to “Coming Soon: The Movie You Want To See. But First: 30 Minutes Of Trailers”

  1.  Avatar

    15 minutes would be OK. Any more and it’s a PITA

  2. Great article, nice research! I have a love/hate relationship with trailers. On the good side they can be a source of huge excitement. I’ve definitely been known to cheer. Sometimes they are better than the movie I’ve come to see!

    On the other side, I don’t like it when they outright spoil things I’ve worked so hard to stay in the dark with (Logan was a bad one, The Last Jedi too). For movies I’m looking the most forward to, I look away and hum while plugging my ears.

    Another thing that irritates me is when they either put all the best moments in a trailer, or when they add every ounce of humor in an effort to convince me the film is a comedy when it totally isn’t. The Banshees of Inisherin was the most egregious I can remember in a while. That movie was just disturbing, it upset me for days, and movies are too expensive to be tricked the audience to be tricked like that.

    As far as how long I’m willing to sit there: I just want a mental expectation. Used to be 15 minutes, keeps creeping up there. If I want to use the bathroom at the last minute proactively, or am ordering a drink, I don’t want to miss the moment to set my RunPee timer. I assume for studios/theaters there will eventually be a law of diminishing returns before it’s too long and it will eat into how many movies can be shown in a day.

    Absolutely with you on the Nicole Kidman intro. I’ve really had enough of that.

    1. Another thing that is bothersome about trailers that happens to those of us who see a movie every week is the trailers that we’re forced to watch over and over. I think the one that bothered me the most was Les Misérables. They started showing that trailer about six months before the movie came out. I didn’t want to see the movie in the first place, but to have to sit through the trailer dozens of times was torture. In the end, I was looking forward to the movie just so I could stop seeing the trailer. 🙂

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